Christmas is the same every year, isn’t it? Decorations everywhere, a Christmas tree, maybe a stocking or two, a roast turkey with all the trimmings, family you haven’t seen all year will visit, gifts will be given and adults will indulge in copious amounts of alcohol.
Why not try something new? If you travel somewhere this Christmas you can miss the short, cold days and the long, dark nights and celebrate the festive season somewhere tropical under the blistering hot sunshine.
Check out all best tropical destinations for an unforgettable Christmas escape!
Christmas in the Tropics
There are hundreds of reasons why people decide to spend Christmas in the tropics rather than having a white Christmas in Europe.
The first reason, of course, being the climate. Warmth and sun means you can comfortably wear a bikini in December. But there’s more…
When travelling to the tropics for Christmas you can learn how different cultures celebrate Christmas. Some places will be similar to home with decorations, Christmas trees and nativities all around. Other spots will be completely different with their own traditions, and some will be somewhere in between.
A lot of countries aren’t Christian, therefore Christmas isn’t celebrated. Christmas day isn’t a public holiday, and you won’t find any celebrations – although there may be some places catering to travelling tourists.
Some people just want to get away so they don’t have to deal with the hustle and bustle of Christmas. No cooking, cleaning or organising.
Whatever your reason, there’s one thing for sure – you won’t have any regrets about a tropical Christmas!
Best Places for a Tropical Christmas
With so many tropical destinations to choose from, we wanted to make it as easy for you as possible.
Here’s our list of the top 11 places to spend a tropical Christmas.
Christmas in Mexico
In Mexico, Christmas celebrations begin on 12th December and don’t finish until 6th January.
Celebrations begin with a festival called Las Posadas. The festival honours the journey that Joseph and Mary took from Nazareth to Bethlehem to find refuge. Traditionally the celebration involves a small child dressed in a gown. They are responsible for leading the procession through the streets of the town. Nowadays many people celebrate Las Posadas by throwing a party with festive food, drinks and piñatas.
Christmas Eve (or nochebuena as it is called in Mexico) is a bigger deal than Christmas day. It marks the end of Las Posadas with a fancy meal and fireworks before heading to mass.
If you’d prefer to get away from the built up cities to enjoy some sea and sand, your best bet is to travel to Playa del Carmen. Playa del Carmen is one of Mexico’s most popular beach resorts, and boasts stunning stretches of sand and crystalline seas. You can use your time to relax and unwind, or enjoy the many water sports on offer.
Christmas in Philippines
Christmas in the Philippines takes place over the duration of three months! They boast one of the longest Christmas celebrations in the world.
Everywhere is beautiful in the Philippines, but you must visit the most exquisite lantern festival in San Fernando, Pampanga. The colourful lanterns are all made by locals and line the streets of the festival. On the streets you will see live dance shows as part of the parade.
It’s also worth noting that San Fernando has been nominated the culinary capital of the Philippines, you will definitely be in for some culinary delights.
If it’s beaches you’re looking for make sure you visit Boracay. Its idyllic beaches are famous for being the best beaches in the Philippines.
If you’re looking for something a little more quaint, visit Vigan. Vigan boasts well-preserved cobblestoned Spanish era streets. If you’re travelling as a couple you should treat yourselves to a romantic tour of the old streets using a traditional kalesa (a horse drawn carriage).
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Christmas in Singapore
Singapore celebrates Christmas with fayres, decorated malls and multiple light shows. It’s the perfect place for families to spend their Christmas vacation as there is so much to see and do for adults, as well as children.
A popular place for tourists to visit is Universal Studios with its interactive movie sets, dressed up movie characters and abundance of rides. While other countries close down their theme parks for Christmas, Universal Studios is thriving and is even open on Christmas Day!
Another attraction is the S.E.A Aquarium with its impressive collection of marine life (there’s over 1000 species). You can make a day of it by going diving and eating dinner with the sharks. Or, you could even organise a slumber party that allows you to fall asleep underneath the fish.
Aside from the major tourist attractions, there’s large shopping malls, exquisite dining experiences and incredible entertainment centres.
Christmas in Jamaica
Jamaica is an island in the Caribbean Sea that has tons on offer for families, couples and solo travellers at Christmas.
You can choose between relaxing on the stunning beaches or hanging out in the picturesque mountains. You can eat traditional Jamaican food and involve yourself in the unique traditions the locals celebrate there. However you will still recognise some traditions from home.
There will be Christmas lights, trees and decorations everywhere! One of the traditional decorations in Jamaica are bright red poinsettias. Even taxis in Jamaica are full of decorations and lights, which adds to the festive feel around the country.
Christmas celebrations happen quite early in Jamaica compared to most countries, you can hear Christmas carols from as early as October. Music is a huge part of Jamaican culture so you’ll be guaranteed some festive tunes wherever you are on the island.
One of the biggest events in Jamaica at Christmas time is the Grand Market. It is the longest standing tradition in Jamaica and takes place from Christmas Eve until Christmas Morning. Here you’ll find all kinds of food, drinks and souvenirs.
Christmas in Puerto Rico
Puerto Rico is the perfect tropical Christmas destination for couples or solo travellers.
Traditionally in Puerto Rico people gather at the plaza to indulge in delicious food and festive drinks, as well as partake in a bit of music, dancing and good cheer. The typical festive food is a pig roast – yum!
If you decide to visit Puerto Rico for Christmas you should attend the San Sebastian festival in Old San Juan. It’s a four day event with plenty of vendors selling food and drink. You’ll also find many artists and musicians.
During the festive period Old San Juan is illuminated with lights making the cobbled streets and old buildings (including the city hall) shimmer and shine.
Puerto Rico is a religious island and traditionally on Christmas eve most Puerto Ricans will attend Misa Del Gallo (midnight mass).
Christmas in Thailand
Thailand is mainly a Buddhist country, therefore Christmas is not a public holiday. To find yourself Christmas celebrations you would need to mix with other travellers and expats. This is ideal for solo travellers who are looking for some Christmas companions.
There are traditional Christmas roast options at various hotels and restaurants, or there is the option to try something new and eat local delicacies. Since Christmas isn’t classified as a public holiday in Thailand you’ll find everything open as normal.
A major benefit of visiting Thailand for Christmas is that you’ll be guaranteed great weather. December is peak season where the temperature can reach over 30 degrees Celsius, and it will mainly be dry.
To make the most of the weather you could spend time at the beach. Or, if you want more hustle and bustle head to Bangkok for their incredible fountain display and festive light show.
Christmas in Brazil
Brazil is the ideal place for a tropical Christmas as the weather is hot and sunny throughout the whole of December.
In Brazil, Christmas is a religious celebration that is spent enjoying time with families and friends indulging in traditional Brazilian food and drink. Due to it being a Catholic country, most people attend Missa do Galo (midnight mass service) on Christmas Eve.
As with many other countries, Brazil is full of lights and Christmas trees, and fireworks take place throughout the Christmas period. You’ll find nativity scenes, hear traditional carols, and Santa Claus (known in Brazil as Papai Noel) will be seen distributing gifts to children.
By far one of the best things to do at Christmas is visit Brazil’s breath-taking beaches. If you’ve never experienced Christmas dinner on the beach, here would be the place to do it.
Christmas in Malaysia
In Malaysia, Christmas is a public holiday for everyone, despite the population being mostly Islamic.
To get the most out of a Christmas trip to Malaysia you should escape the busy city and venture to the tranquil picturesque beaches. There are plenty of resort hotels with tons of island activities making it an excellent choice for families. Try out water sports such as snorkelling and scuba diving, or you can jump in the clear blue waters for a good old fashioned swim.
Have some fun island hopping, and see what’s going on at the other islands. You’ll find live entertainment and delicious food! Take the time to go on adventurous jungle hikes where you will march among the rainforests and happen upon waterfalls.
Once you’ve had enough of the sun, sea and sand, wander the shopping malls. The major malls always try to out-do each other with lavish decorations. They are adorned with shiny baubles, glittering lights and funky streamers. And, there’s always a giant Christmas tree to marvel at!
Christmas in Vietnam
Vietnam is a Buddhist country so Christmas is not an official holiday. However, Vietnamese people still have fun and celebrate Christmas by putting together all kinds of festivals and parties. You will find that Vietnamese people place more importance on celebrating Christmas Eve than Christmas Day.
There is a lot of French influence in the Christmas traditions with Christmas trees, decorations and nativity scenes with giant statues of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.
To experience the vibrant Vietnamese culture you need to visit the Old Quarter in Hanoi, it is packed with street food vendors, cute coffee shops and clothes stalls. You can order something and sit on the street to watch the world go by.
If you’re looking for a hotter climate you should head south and visit Ho Chi Min City. In Ho Chi Min City you can visit the iconic Giac Lam Pagoda, take a cruise on the Bonsai river or grab a drink at the busy Pham Ngu Lao Street.
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Christmas in Cuba
Christmas celebrations in Cuba are more muted than they are elsewhere. This is because Christmas was cancelled in Cuba from 1969 until 1997 which meant Cubans got used to not celebrating it. This makes it the perfect place to go on your Christmas vacation if what you want is to get away from all the commercialism that surrounds the festive period.
You might still find decorations and Christmas trees in hotels that are specifically for tourists, but you aren’t likely to see them as much when you’re out and about.
If Cuba is your destination of choice you should head to Havana for sun, salsa music and beaches. Drink a real mojito by the sea or smoke a Cuban cigar with some locals.
Christmas in Hong Kong
Christmas in Hong Kong can’t be talked about without mentioning Winterfest. Hong Kong Winterfest has been named one of the top ten places to spend Christmas.
During the festive season Hong Kong is transformed into a winter wonderland with Christmas trees, tinsel, fairy lights and decorations. A must-see for any traveller is the Christmas Symphony of Lights.
If you’re travelling as couple you will definitely want to take part in the Christmas ‘love locks’ tradition by attaching your lock to the railing and blessing your romance with Christmas cheer. Music and an accompanying narrative play through giant speakers whilst the Christmas lights perform a show.
Hong Kong is a great place for families to vacation all thanks to Hong Kong’s Disneyland theme park. Christmas themed entertainment begins in November with ‘A Magical Twilight Snowfall’ and later you get to be part of ‘A Holiday Wish-Come-True’ Tree Lighting Ceremony.
If Disneyland isn’t your thing you’ll still have plenty of events to get involved in. There is carol singing, parades, fireworks and free live entertainment.
A tropical Christmas is a great choice for so many reasons. You can escape the cold, learn new and exciting festive traditions and, depending which country you choose, you might even manage to skip the commercial element of Christmas. One thing is guaranteed, each and every destination on this list will offer a unique and magical Christmas.
All that matters is that you find the perfect destination, and we are certain you will have found it here. If there are too many options on offer and you’re struggling to choose between them all, just close your eyes and point to one, you won’t regret it.
Don’t forget to sort your travel insurance! We’ve put together a roundup of Travel Insurance for backpackers – check it out here, or if you’re low on time, get a quote from World Nomads, our favorite travel insurance provider.
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